‘Disgusting’ act ‘never seen before’
Coach Maurizio Sarri appeared to be overruled by his own goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga during a remarkable and bizarre finish to Chelsea's Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester City.
With the game goalless and deep into extra-time, Kepa seemed to be struggling with cramp and Sarri readied substitute keeper Willy Caballero to come on for the final moments and the approaching penalty shootout.
However, when Chelsea went to make the substitution, Kepa refused to come off the pitch and insisted he was fit to continue, despite Sarri trying to complete the change regardless and imploring his player to leave the field from the touchline.
The situation escalated as referee Jon Moss was forced to ask Kepa to leave the field himself before going over to Sarri to ask for the manager to make a decision on the substitution.
The Chelsea manager eventually allowed Kepa to stay on before storming back to his dugout, slamming a water bottle into the floor and then marching off towards the tunnel.
Sarri then turned on his heels and returned to his technical area, but was clearly incensed by having his authority undermined in such a public way.
On Twitter, British TV host and media personality Piers Morgan wrote: Disgraceful behaviour by Kepa. But pathetically weak of Sarri to just surrender & let him stay on. I'd have dragged him off by his cocky, stubborn little ears."
This is unbelievable. Regardless of what people think of his performance, #Sarri is still the manager of the team. #Kepa has proven to the world how some of #Chelsea players have been disrespectful to the coach. Never seen anything like this before! https://t.co/inBIyU8jXn— Africando Bah (@africandobah) February 24, 2019
After the final whistle, Sarri appeared to clash with Kepa and then Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta before trying to offer some words of motivation to his team before the shootout.
In the shootout, Kepa allowed Sergio Aguero's poor penalty to pass underneath him before saving from Leroy Sane, but he could not prevent Chelsea suffering defeat.
"It's certainly not the end of it. It's a cloud over a really good Chelsea performance," said former captain John Terry.
"I think once the number goes up you have to come off. As a player you have to show that respect and come off. I get it that he doesn't want to, he's in the final, he's played well, he's doing well, if he's told the physio and the medical department he's OK ...
"I can get his frustration but you deal with that after."
Ex-football star Jamie Redknapp was equally stunned by the incident and also backed Sarri. "I thought I'd seen it all in football," said the Sky Sports pundit. "I feel sorry for the manager. It's such a difficult situation for him."
One commentator said: "I haven't seen anything like this in a long, long time."
Former Premier League star Chris Sutton blasted the stubborn shot-stopper, calling him out for his "disgusting" resistance.
"Kepa should never play for Chelsea again. He's a disgrace," Sutton said.
"He's undermined his manager. It's disgusting. Never seen anything like it. If I was Sarri I would walk."
City coach Pep Guardiola said in his press conference he had never seen someone refuse to come off the pitch like that before.
Speaking after the match, Sarri tried to clear up what he called a "misunderstanding".
"I misunderstood the problem and only realised the situation when the doctor arrived at the bench," he said.
"It was a big misunderstanding because I understood the keeper had cramp and was unable to go to the penalties. But it was not cramp and he could go to the penalties."
Asked why he walked off towards the tunnel after the spat, Sarri added: "I needed to return to be quiet. He understood that I asked for a change for his physical problem and he said I haven't a physical problem. And he was right.
"I realised after when the doctor arrived. I have talked to him but only to clarify because now I have understand the situation."
City's win on penalties gave it its fourth League Cup in six years. Raheem Sterling scored the vital penalty to give holders City a 4-3 shootout win after the match had ended 0-0 after extra time.
"In the penalties, anything could happen, we were lucky," Guardiola said.
"I'm happy, but compliments to Chelsea, incredible performance. (It's great) to win back to back in this competition for the first time in history."
Jorginho missed the first penalty for Chelsea but Kepa saved from Leroy Sane to give Chelsea hope, only for David Luiz to miss and Sterling to fire in the deciding penalty off the underside of the bar.
"Chelsea played a really good game but we kept focused and did the business," Sterling said.
"It's a great feeling. It was a tough game but it's just amazing. The boys were brilliant today."
With City fighting for trophies on four fronts, including the Premier League, the win gives City momentum but Sterling said the players would not get ahead of themselves.
"One trophy down, we just need to keep winning games and that's it," Sterling said.
Guardiola agreed, saying: "I don't know how far we're going to arrive because (Aymeric) Laporte, Fernandinho (are injured). We will be there but we'll see how far we arrive."
It is the first time that City have successfully retained a major title, while it is the 21st trophy as manager for Guardiola.
City went into the match as favourites but Chelsea made life difficult for Guardiola's side, with just one shot on target between the two sides in the 90 minutes.
This article first appeared on Sky Sports and was reproduced with permission